Live United: Spread warmth and kindness throughout the community

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

Live United by Erin Haag

She came in just as it was starting to snow with a toddler perched on her hip. She wore a thin T-shirt with a zip-up hoodie over it that looked soft and worn, but not particularly warm. Her little girl had pretty pink shoes on her feet, ones that looked brand new, and I recognized as having gone on clearance at Walmart. If my not so little girl was that size I would have gotten some for her. Baby girl would pat her mama’s cheek, and lean her head on her shoulder. She watched me and followed directions, but never made a sound.

Erin Haag

Baby girl has three big brothers ranging from 8 to 16. When families come into our reception area, we first ask them their sizes and needs. A volunteer or staff member is assigned to them to answer questions and help as a personal shopper. I gave her the last of the size 8 boys and the last of the size 12 boys. Then we turned our attention to her little girl. I grabbed a snowsuit that looked a little big, but I suspected it might work for her. It was the one-piece kind. We helped her into it, and shared what I can only call a “mom moment.” The snowsuit had a zipper in the leg, to make it easier to get it on her — and we both said, “oooh!” at the same moment. We laughed and compared it to finding pockets in dresses — the small details that make the lives of women easier. I’m happy to report that while a little big, the snowsuit will work well for this little girl, along with the sweet polka dot hat and mittens with Olaf on them.

We got the younger kids taken care of. I told her that since we didn’t have anything for her older son, maybe he was big enough to fit into a smaller adult size and we should look. Noting that mom didn’t have a coat on, I mentioned that we could look for her, too. She paused and said, “I didn’t even think about for me, I was just focused on the kids.” It was an honest moment of classic mom mentality. She had her list in her mind of what was needed, and centered it around the children.

Did you catch what I said earlier though? I gave her the last of the coats for her younger boys. A week ago, I had four long tables full of hats, gloves and scarves. The racks were full of warm coats, and there were several new coats waiting for children in need. We felt pretty good about opening up on our first distribution of the Winter Gear Drive. We already had served several families, working with local school social workers. The extremely talented quilters in our area had been busy, dropping off beautiful quilts — we have four shelving units full and more are promised to come.

Now, I am concerned about our needs list getting so long. Nikolle and I have some shopping to do, and we have a bit of funding to cover it, but the needs are great. As I sit here looking at the new snow fallen, I’m hoping that all of our kids have at least a warm coat today. Last year, we ended the year with being able to tuck away some coats to start off the winter drive. Those are all gone now. A generous donor obviously read my article about Snozu coats at Costco being a better buy than wholesale, and I found four of them in our donations boxes. Those went out the door about five minutes after I unpacked them. Thank you to the person who donated them, it made my day!

So, stay warm and dry this weekend, and clean out those closets! If you’d like to get our latest needs list, we have our community needs list on our website —

If you’re wintering in the South, you can still help by participating in our annual campaign, or by shopping online and shipping to us. Pledge cards will be in the paper next Saturday, as they were last Saturday. Our biggest needs are children’s ages 5 to 12 coats and medium-XL coats for both men and women.

This next week is Minnesota United Week of Kindness. I’ll confess, we’re not doing as much this year for Week of Kindness as we’ve done in the past. Our focus has been on other things, and it sneaks up on us. We’re going to take a moment though and enjoy a potluck with each other with our “vision board.” Nikolle has brought us a stack of magazines, and we’ll start cutting and pinning up our dreams and goals for the work at United Way. We hope other places will stop and take a moment to connect with each other — somehow. At our office, we talk often about connecting, building relationships and being kind. While we’re not hosting a big rock painting extravaganza, we hope that we’re spreading warmth and joy around town with displays of hats that the Senior Service Club through the Senior Center have put together. Looking for an act of kindness? Well, I’m sure you can guess what my suggestion is based on the first half of the article. No matter what you choose, be kind to others, and be kind to yourself. The world needs it right now, and being kind is the way to Live United.

Questions on how to help, or need the updated list? Call our office at 507-373-8670.


Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.